Costume Designer Julian Day Dives Into ‘Rocketman’s’ Glam Looks

Carole Horst

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Could Julian Day be the unofficial go-to costume designer for movies about icons? With films such as “Control” (Joy Division), “Nowhere Boy” (John Lennon), “Rush” (James Hunt, Niki Lauda), “Diana” (Princess Di) and “Bohemian
Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury and Queen) on his eclectic resume, Day’s grasp of what directors and actors need to create the right tone and larger-than-life characters can be seen in “Rocketman.” The Elton John biopic stars Taron Egerton as John, and his costumes had to not only look authentic, but also had to stand up to the rigors of filming as well as performing, given John’s legendary onstage antics. Day also got to show off his knowledge on last season’s “Project Runway,” which mounted an Elton John costume challenge, with Day as the guest judge.

How did you find yourself in the throes of 1970s rock stardom again?

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I worked with Dexter [Fletcher] on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Freddie Mercury was flamboyant, but not like this.

Many of the looks are iconic, how did you deal with that?

The thing is the film, it was always going to be a fantasy, a retelling of his story, the film is seen through his eyes.
I had license to create a new look. I went to his archives and I had a look at those costumes. He’s been great with everything. If you start with the truth you can adapt and change and redesign.

What about the Dodgers uniform?

The Dodgers uniform was the most similar re-creation in the film. I used Swarovski crystals for it instead of sequins as the original had used. The devil outfit was not based on an existing costume. He actually did wear a devil outfit, but
I never saw it. That was a completely new costume. Richard Madden’s character was the polar opposite. Richard was great to dress. I wanted to create a single template for him so 99% of the time he wears a double-breasted suit. Mr. Porter did a line of clothing based on the designs. Very straight and very tailored.

How did you deal with the fact that these were for film and not a big stadium show?

Whether it’s the theater or film the fabrics are going to be the same. I would have used the same fabrics if I was designing for stage. The devil outfit had to be versatile. The crystals — we used a million in all; 250,000 on the Dodgers outfit, and there were 10 altogether.

Who sewed all of these costumes?

We had a very small crew — it wasn’t a big-budget movie. There were a lot of costumes, over 80 for [Egerton]. We made the glasses and shoes. For the “Pinball Wizard” scene, where the camera revolves around him and he changes his outfits,
I was asked to do that in a couple of days! We had to do it — Dexter’s a brilliant director and he’s into clothes.

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